ISA Preview #2: Energy-Security, Myths of Counter-Terrorism, and Terrorism Hoaxes

Michael Shkolnik and Uri Marantz, Causal Pathways of Resource Conflict and the Energy-Security Nexus: The Case of Egyptian-Israeli Relations

Why do some states conflict over energy resources while others cooperate? This paper expands Colgan’s (2013) causal pathways linking oil to international conflict by proposing similar mechanisms for natural gas. Egyptian-Israeli energy relations serve as an important case study since it demonstrates unique variation on the dependent variable, a rupture followed by a reversal of cooperative energy trading policies, especially when subject to stringent counterfactual analysis. Egyptian regime changes and political turmoil since 2011 have challenged the cold peace with Israel and provided an interesting opportunity to analyze the resource-based conflict dynamics of two Middle Eastern powers. As Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula target gas pipelines from Egypt to Israel, Egypt’s desperate economic situation coupled with recent natural gas discoveries off Israeli shores have led to a reversal in the energy producer-consumer relationship between both states. The use of counterfactuals highlights new causal pathways for theorists to conceptualize dynamic energy relationships and reveals vital policy implications for national and regional leaders in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Nicole Tisher, Debunking the Myth of Globalized Counter-Terrorism: How the Study and Practice of Counter-Terrorism Reify the State

Terrorism is frequently labeled a “globalized threat” in need of a “globalized response.” In spite of this common formulation, however, counterterrorism (CT) is not really “global,” nor is it meaningfully treated as such within academia. Instead, the very character of CT, and the academic methods applied to study it, both serve to buttress the role that states and their national interests play in countering terrorism. This paper first examines how academic research espouses a methodological nationalism that consistently positions the state at the core of CT activities; CT research does not meet the standards of theoretical or methodological globalism or transnationalism. Second, it demonstrates that this methodological nationalism in CT studies is not misplaced, due to CT’s offensive and defensive nature, and the factors considered when allocating resources between these two approaches. States’ national interests are embedded in the essence of CT activities, even when these do take on international or global dimensions. The paper concludes with implications for policy and theory of the blurring—or, at worst, conflation—of the “global” and the “transnational” in policy and academic discourse; and of privileging the “global” or “transnational” in discourse at the expense of the role and significance of the state.

Nicole Tisher, Characteristics of Terrorism Hoaxes and their Perpetrators

The academic literature on terrorism has failed to accord serious attention to terrorist hoaxes; where they are acknowledged (in terms of inducing fear and draining financial resources), they are subsequently discounted since they do not pose a serious threat of bodily harm or property damage. This paper reviews existing literature and available data to outline the contours of hoaxes. Hoaxes are understood as a low-resource mode of low-severity terrorism, whereby perpetrators: 1) use benign materials to give the impression that a terrorist act is, or has been, underway (hoax devices); 2) threaten a future terrorist act, without the intention of actually carrying out this act (hoax warnings); 3) claim responsibility for incidents they did not cause (hoax claims of responsibility); or 4) exploit false claims or staged activities as a means to facilitating an act of “serious” terrorism (instrumental hoaxes). Using data drawn primarily from ITERATE, the paper also provides descriptive statistics to delineate the scope and nature of terrorist hoax activities worldwide; present profiles of hoax perpetrators; and highlight substantial inconsistencies in the ITERATE dataset itself. It concludes with an assessment of potential contributions that serious attention to hoaxes can provide to broader terrorism studies theory, approaches, and debates.


Canada and Terrorism: quick reflections on information, speculation, and intelligence

By Jeremy Littlewood

We learnt quite a bit yesterday (October 23) about the attack in Ottawa on Wednesday. Noting as I did yesterday some positive aspects, the Press Conference mid-afternoon with the Chief of Ottawa Police and the Commissioner of the RCMP was quite enlightening: like others I’ll give a nod of appreciation to Commissioner Paulson for his remarks and information provided. That level of transparency – number of people now under investigation by RCMP as high risk travellers, dynamic nature of that ‘list’, the fact that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was not on that list, etc. – as well as the walk through, with video, of the arrival of Zehaf-Bibeau on Parliament Hill was a very welcome clarification of what is actually known at this time. Hopefully it will dampen the speculation that inevitably fills any vacuum. He, of course, left some details unclear and quite a few things unsaid, but I am not going to complain about that now.

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Terrorism in Canada: how to respond

By Jeremy Littlewood

Events in Canada in the last few days will change our understanding of the security situation and how we all – Parliamentarians, officials, citizens – respond to and manage it. Statements such as those from testimony earlier this month – the threat of terrorism is diffuse, complex and able to change rapidly – now have salience and more prominent meaning. As the Prime Minister noted in his statement over the next few days and weeks much that is unknown will become clearer. There will, of course, be a reaction on numerous levels, and necessarily so. How we react will have important implications for managing the threat from terrorism in the coming months and years.

We should first reflect on some positive aspects of the response to the attack in Ottawa. Overall, the system worked: individuals, authorities, and the bureaucracy reacted with some skill and considerable flexibility in a very confusing situation. The numerous responses from professionals and people caught in the downtown core, from the Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers in Parliament and staff, passers-by who aided Corporal Cirillo, police and authorities who responded quickly, MPs and their staff who remained calm, and the media for doing a collective good job on reporting events on TV, in e-print, and via social media. Watching Canada from the safety of my office in Ottawa efficiency, effectiveness and calmness were evident and Ottawa got through the day without hyperbole and fear-mongering.

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Finding ‘root causes’ of terrorism is the core of Canadian policy

As originally published in the Globe and Mail.

Justin Trudeau’s comments on the “root causes” of terrorism have sparked considerable debate in the media. The discussion has focused on narrow political point-scoring at the expense of deeper understanding of the issues at stake.

Mr. Trudeau’s observations were badly timed, spoken when Canadians, like their American neighbours, felt raw, exposed, and vulnerable. Still there is a valuable role for political leaders who provide that stabilizing viewpoint; seizing control of the narrative, rather than surrendering to it.

In contrast, Prime Minister Harper’s comments, with his calls for harsh punishment without any hope of more general understanding are unhelpful. They tap into and assuage that feeling of helpless rage, but offer nothing beyond vengeance as a solution.

Those who dismiss the “root causes” argument misunderstand both the scope of Canadian policy and the underlying causes of terrorism. Dealing with root causes is the stated policy of the government of Canada, as expressed in the words of former foreign minister Lawrence Cannon, and on Public Safety Canada’s (PSC) approach to counter violent extremism.

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Syria, Western Foreign Fighters and Counterterrorism

This week the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) confirmed that a Canadian did in fact die during the In-Amenas attack in Algeria in January, although it refused to expand on whether the individual was a victim of the attack or part of the terrorist group that conducted the armed assault on the facility. Confirmation of a Canadian link to the Bulgarian bus bombing in 2012, conducted by Hezbollah according to the Government of Bulgaria, has also raised the spectre of Canadians fighting abroad and carrying out acts of terrorism. Last year the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service testified that between 45 to 60 Canadians are believed to have traveled abroad to support terrorism. It is probably only a matter of time before reports of Canadians active in Syria’s civil war emerge.

Syria, according to the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, is now the ‘top destination for jihadists anywhere in the world’ and that is beginning to have an effect on terrorism threat assessments. On March 13 The Netherlands raised its threat assessment on terrorism to ‘substantial’ from the previous ‘limited’ and reported that ‘[c]lose to a hundred individuals have recently left the Netherlands for various countries in Africa and the Middle East, especially Syria.’ Similarly, last week Der Spiegel ran a report on a German language video encouraging others to come to Syria to wage jihad: ‘You can fly from Germany to Syria…You can come here to wage jihad.’ Other reports in the European media suggest that extremists from across Europe are making their way to Syria.

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